Artist Sylvia Castellanos, who emigrated to the United States from her native Cuba as a child, has executed hundreds of portraits and figurative works of everyone from Washington dignitaries to Central American campesinos.While her portraiture covers a broad range of subject matter and moods, its emphasis is consistently on capturing the individual’s spirit in a nuanced, sensitive way.
After earning a graduate degree from Princeton University, she moved to Washington, D.C. in the early seventies. For the remainder of the decade she combined holding a prestigious position in the Senate with doing commissioned portraits for clients prominent on Capitol Hill.
Her move in 1980 to Guatemala City, Guatemala started a multi-year project related to the indigenous population. Fascinated by their appearance and garments, Ms. Castellanos embarked on a collection of 62 portraits of the modern-day Mayas, intended as a picture essay of the nation’s character at the level of the common man. This collection was honored by an exhibit at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador in Guatemala, and it was also shown at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. Invitations to exhibit in this historic building are extended only to leading artists from countries in the Americas.
Much of Ms. Castellanos’ time now is spent on figurative paintings, where her background is evident in her choice of subjects, frequently Hispanic and almost always international. She displays her figurative paintings at institutions and juried exhibits throughout the year. In 2011-12, she exhibited in Baltimore at the Douglass-Myers Museum. In New York City she has participated in shows sponsored by such prestigious organizations as the Salmagundi Club and the American Artists Professional League, with the latter presenting her its 2008 Julia Castro Award. Active in portrait work as well, she has painted several important figures in Philadelphia. She frequently exhibits with the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the nation’s oldest organization of serious artists.
From 2011-2013 the Marian Anderson Historical Society exhibited her painting of this legendary singer. The Philadelphia Phillies has included her portrait of Jackie Robinson in its celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, an annual event. These works are part of the collection of portraits of sixteen historic African-Americans. At the same time, a painting she executed of the late Pope John Paul was on loan for several years to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., his official institution.
A number of articles have been written about Sylvia’s work, and she has been featured on the Spanish-language television network, Univision.